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  1. #1
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    Buying a bike in Amsterdam

    I am considering a layover of two days in Amsterdam (returning to the U.S. from business in Africa) to buy a Dutch bike to bring home. I have researched a lot about Dutch bikes on the Web and there are many brands I like, or at least think I would like, and I understand that the choice is obviously much greater in Holland than over here (especially in Maine where I live), as well as cheaper. Because of my mileage status on Delta/KLM, I am allowed free transport of bags up to 70 pounds, even when flying coach. I have never been to Amsterdam, much less shopped for a bike there. I am looking for advice on the best bike shops in the city with a great selection of brands that will also be able to pack up anything I buy (within one day) for airline travel. Obviously I will contact recommended bike shops in advance to verify the information, but I'm not sure where to begin. I speak zero Dutch although my French is reasonably good, and I understand English is fairly common there; is it reasonable to assume someone at a bike shop will speak English or French?

  2. #2
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    The Dutch speak very good English, on the whole. They learn it in school from an early age.

  3. #3
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    I wouldn't worry about the language barrier in Amsterdam. If you find the one shop where they don's speak English, there will be at least two others on the block.

    I would do some thorough research into how the airline will want to pack the bike. It seems to depend on which airline your first leg is with as to how much you get charged. You'll probably need to remove the pedals and turn the handlebars, at the least. I would show up plenty early at the airport and bring any tools you might need for last minute disassembly. Buying a new one at a bike shop, it might make more sense to get an unbuilt bike, still in the box.

  4. #4
    2_i
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    You need to research carefully the Delta/KLM luggage policy. This 70 pounds applies to a bag with specific dimensions. You can fit a folder into those dimensions, but not a regular bike. The latter falls into sports equipment category costing $175 in my memory. Even if you decide on a folder, you better pack it so that the agent cannot tell it is a bike when accepting the bag. A typical Dutch will speak speak several languages, or at least went through the educational system learning several languages.

  5. #5
    Senior Member fairymuff's Avatar
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    Having just looked into bikes on KLM: The bike needs to be boxed. KLM will sell you a box, but you're probably better off getting a boxed one from the shop. You can take the bike as a second piece of luggage, provided you only check in one other item. The cost is 55 Euros one way, with (I believe) a 20% discount if you check in on-line.

    More info here: http://www.klm.com/travel/gb_en/prep...gage/index.htm

    Don't worry about not speaking Dutch. Most Dutch people have good command of English. I should know. I am Dutch

    I can't help you on a specific shop, but the following link is the local yellow pages search result for bicycle (repair) shops in Amsterdam. There's 223 hits.

    http://www.detelefoongids.nl/bg/plaa...ietsenmaker/1/

    I've not looked at Dutch style bikes in a long time (I don't live there at present), but Gazelle, Batavus and Sparta are reputable brands.

    Edit: Bovag is an association for Car/bicycle traders and repairers. Traders have to pass minimum requirements to gain Bovag accreditation, so Bovag accreditation is pretty much a stamp of approval. You can find approved shops in Amsterdam by going to the bovag website (www.bovag.nl), click 'bovag in de buurt' on the top of the page. Then type Amsterdam in the search box on the right and select 'fiets' (= bicycle) from the drop down menu en click 'zoek'. That narrows it down to about accredited 40 shops.
    Last edited by fairymuff; 07-26-10 at 08:32 AM. Reason: added info

  6. #6
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    Thank you for all your replies. I have decided to buy a Workcycle (Kruisframe "Lux" model with 8-speed hub) in Amsterdam, based partly on their reputation for being extremely well made (I've heard that many of the old-line Dutch brands are not as good as they used to be, but I can't say for sure), and partly on their amazing customer service. The owner of the company, an American engineer, responded immediately to all my email questions and was extremely helpful. They have two shops in Amsterdam and will take care of everything; my bike will be properly boxed and ready for the airline when I arrive. He even gave me the exact dimensions of the box. I assume I will also have access to a similar bike from their rental fleet while I am in Amsterdam, as the company includes up to three free rental days with a purchase. although I have not confirmed that.

    By contrast, my emails to several other bike shops in Amsterdam (granted in English) have received no replies at all after maybe two weeks. And the traditional bike manufacturers seem very staid and old-fashioned when it comes to customer service. For example, Gazelle's Dutch website doesn't even provide an email contact, only a mailing address to their factory! (Memo to Gazelle: I almost bought one of your bikes, but that was a dealbreaker.)

    To answer some of your very good concerns regarding air transport: Yes, it turns out that I will have to pay KLM/Delta for taking the bike, despite my mileage status; bikes simply don't count as a regular bag, in any travel class. It will cost me $200, which is pretty outrageous (considering their Yeti-like carbon footprints, the airlines should be forced to take bikes all around the world for free, but that's another matter). But I still save money. The bike will cost me about 1000 euros including the small fee for airline boxing and after deducting the 19 percent VAT, refundable to Yanks at the airport. That's about $1300 at current exchange. The same bike from the Dutch bike company in Seattle costs more than $1900 pre-tax, including the $150 shipping fee (I live in Maine and there is no Workcycles dealer anywhere close to me). Even with the $200 airline fee, and factoring in some U.S. duty tax (for the portion over $800) I save about $400.

    Of course, that doesn't count getting to Amsterdam (I'm changing planes there anyway, and the airline fee for staying over two nights adds just $48 to my ticket) or meals and lodging (I Pricelined a 4-star hotel for $95 a night). But even with that, I will save a bit of money, and have the unforgettable experience of buying my bike (and biking) in one of the world's greatest bike cities.

    Bottom line for other Americans considering a similar move: Not counting airfare you will save some money, but not much (unless the euro continues its slide!), and have a great experience. If the experience is unimportant to you, don't bother, just buy in the U.S. I'll file an update after my trip, which is not until November.
    Last edited by Max Alexander; 08-02-10 at 07:06 AM. Reason: math error

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    Have a good trip. I remember the museums being pretty cool in Amsterdam. You can see a lot of Van Gogh's early work. I'd skip the Heineken tour, though, unless you really love their brand of beer.

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    Max

    That is why I always check the airline policy before I book. Some time the more expensive ticket for you is cheaper when the bike fee is added. I know you were flying on business, but in the future, it is something to consider. I hope this will the first time flying with your bike but not the last. ;-) Have fun

  9. #9
    Senior Member fadi's Avatar
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    The Gazelle but it is expensive!
    ... and worst case scenario, you ship it as bulk cargo and recuperate the bike a couple of days later. It even costs less sometimes shipping it this way than paying extra weight for an airline!
    Just be sure to have all the documentation ready to avoid paying customs duties in the USA at arrival.
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  10. #10
    imi
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    Being the middle of summer all LBS's are assuredly full up selling and repairing to customers, so I'm not too surprised that answering email is low priority. By the end of august things'll slow down as people go back to work/school/university... just a thought...

  11. #11
    gna
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhodabike View Post
    The Dutch speak very good English, on the whole. They learn it in school from an early age.
    Pretty much everyone under 40 speaks very good English. Many older Dutch do as well.

    On one visit, I tried to speak a few words in Dutch, and people would respond "I beg your pardon?" in flawless English.

  12. #12
    2_i
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    Upon arrival, rent a bike right away to move around Amsterdam. There is a multitude of rental locations, the price is few euro per day and the bike is by far the most practical means of transportation around the city. Of course you may want to try out your own bike but there will be time before you get your bike and after the bike is in the box. You need to get your bike to the airport. One strategy could be to do two rounds to the airport. You could take your suitcase first, leave it in the locker and then come back for the bike. Leave extra time for getting the tax money back. Gazelle has many dealers around the city, if you still considered them.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Lot's Knife's Avatar
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    Plus, you can get wasted.
    336 hours in Cairo: www.dodifa.blogspot.com

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    Congrats, do not forget Amstedam is a bike theft capital & US import tarriff

    Quote Originally Posted by Max Alexander View Post
    ... I assume I will also have access to a similar bike from their rental fleet while I am in Amsterdam, as the company includes up to three free rental days with a purchase. ... deducting the 19 percent VAT, refundable to Yanks at the airport. ...
    Sounds like a very nice bike. The rental idea is good because Amsterdam has a bike theft problem and your brand new bike would be a prime target.

    Also, I believe you will have to pay the US import tarriff. I've seen it recently (on the US Dept of Commerece site, I recall) and while it varies in all sorts of details (e.g. by wheel size), as I recall it was somewhere about 5 to 8% or so for a complete, full size bike that is not coming from some particular countries (e.g. North Korea).

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    I am looking forward to riding there, although November is not exactly a great season! At any rate it would not be possible to ride my purchased bike in Amsterdam, as it will be boxed and ready for travel. (I will only be there two nights.)

    American citizens traveling abroad are allowed to bring back $800 worth of foreign purchased goods that are exempt from duties. I will only owe duty on the remainder, perhaps $400 worth. As such the duty will be trivial, perhaps $20.

  16. #16
    Lug Princess Veloria's Avatar
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    Portland Velocipede in Portland, ME sells Gazelle...

  17. #17
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    Yes, I have been to the store in Portland, they are great and I highly recommend them. In fact they told me they can also get Workcycles/Azor bikes through the Canadian distributor, and they are looking into getting the bike I want. At this point I think I still save a lot buying in Amsterdam.

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    Max, have you gotten your bike? I just stumbled upon this thread and i know someone that has a workcycle secret service that he has ridden like 5 times and he is willing to take a huge hit on it, just thought i'd mention it, he said like $800.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ann ladson View Post
    Max, have you gotten your bike? I just stumbled upon this thread and i know someone that has a workcycle secret service that he has ridden like 5 times and he is willing to take a huge hit on it, just thought i'd mention it, he said like $800.
    Thanks--yes, I did get a Workcycles Kruisframe in Amsterdam last November. It was a great experience. They gave me a free loaner bike for two days in Amsterdam. Then, when it was time to get my boxed 60-pound bike to my hotel on the other side of town, Workcycles loaned me one of their huge three-wheeled cargo bikes to haul it. That was a memorable experience in itself; I felt like a real native. I did save some money over buying in the U.S. (not including airfare of course, but I was going there anyway, but including the $300 that KLM charged to bring it home), and it was very simple to get my VAT refund (over $150) at Schiphol with the paperwork that Workcycles provided.

    I can provide more details for anyone considering such a trip; the one difficulty was hefting the bike around by myself; it's an unwieldy beast in a huge box. Fortunately I relied on the kindness of hotel doormen and a great cab driver out to Schiphol (also secured by my friendly hotel doorman). You could save a lot--i.e. about $100--by taking the airport train, but that would be difficult if not impossible without another person, especially if, like me, you also had tons of other luggage; Central Station does not have porters, and the Schiphol platform does not have elevator access. (Lots of desperate characters in that station, so leaving luggage unattended for even a minute while shuffling up and down long flights of stairs is not an option.)

    I was also very glad I Pricelined a 3-star hotel with an elevator (lots of smaller hotels in Amsterdam don't have them), as the boxed bike had to go up to my room for one night.

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    Ann, can you put me in touch with your friend? I am very interested in his bike.....

  21. #21
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Koga Miyata has a near custom, signature program, even to putting your name on the frame,

    they ship the built bike to dealers, some not far from Shiphol, AMS international airport.

    there is the possibility to have it left in the factory carton,
    then get the VAT rebate papers, signed at departure.

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